Merry (Holiday of your choice)!

Whatever holiday you are celebrating this Christmas eve, I’m sure this will make it better. It’s a little treat brought to you in a round-about way from 1961 Vodka, Restaurant 2Vine, my friend Ann, and Heather and me, called the Queen Ann.

2B_1961 Queen Ann

I mentioned 1961 Vodka a few posts back, here. I was working with Ann on all of the cocktail and bottle photography for 1961Vodka.com, which I recommend you check out…as I helped develop the recipes, too. (It was a fun shoot!) It’s fabulous vodka, I suggest you look for a bottle!

Restaurant 2Vine created the cocktail in Ann’s honor. Just for fun, I decided to photograph it in a similar fashion to the others. Pour one ounce 1961 Vodka and 1 ounce strawberry puree in a champagne glass. Top with sparkling wine, garnish with a strawberry, and celebrate. Cheers!

The nap inducer.

I hope you all had a good Thanksgiving nap! The super fun chaos of hosting Thanksgiving for 30 delayed the start of my nap (as well as the posting of this image/animation), but I did manage to finish the entire plate, making it inevitable. And it was good.

A toast to leftovers starts now! Cheers!

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I’m thankful for cheese. Good cheese.

Happy Thanksgiving, y’all! I’m thankful for love, family, friends, all the wonderful things around me, getting to say y’all every now and then, and life in general. I hope y’all feel the same way, everything is great in your world, and you are spending time with your loved ones. The Thanksgiving turkey post will come (no pictures yet, insert segue), so I’m going to shift gears and say I’m thankful for cheese. Especially when all you have to do is say, “Yes, please. I’d love a sample!”

I was walking through the Wegmans cheese department (this happens frequently, as I photograph cheese often), and the Giorgio Cravero Parmigiano Reggiano was being sampled, paired with pear infused balsamic vinegar. It took me just to the end of the first bite to grab a chunk and a bottle…and go in search of more balsamic flavors.

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As you can see, I decided on fig, along with the fresh fruit to pair with it. Bread and wine (which I’m also thankful for) weren’t far behind on my shopping list.

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The ciabatta baguette was a nice way to soak up a little extra vinegar, and to keep it from dripping as you’re dipping. The pear variety is a little sweeter, blending well with the tart balsamic vinegar base. The fig version is lighter (just like the color), and considerably more tart. Both were excellent (slight edge to the pear), and went well with the cheese. The cheese was a little softer and more moist than most aged parm, with more brilliant flavors of caramel, fruit, and nuts. Giorgio Cravero created an excellent (as the label states) “small batch, Artisinal, Parmigiano Reggiano”.

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Two varieties of Apothic wines seemed appropriate, as we had the 2 varieties of vinegar. They were probably too deep a red for the pairing, but were very good! Both are California blends with dark fruit and layers of flavor. The Red (Heather’s favorite) is definitely lighter and adds a few notes of vanilla and jam. The Dark (my favorite) is true to name, darker, with hints of coffee and dark chocolate.

Enjoy your day! Cheers!

The diversity of beer and music.

I went to the beer store. While this isn’t necessarily an odd occurrence, my mission was unusual. I volunteered to shoot an image for this month’s RAF event, 20 Minutes and a Beer. (Join the Facebook event!) Anthony DeVito from Pandora will be speaking about the current and future state of streaming audio. Thus my mission was to find some beers that relate to music! Beer and music come in hugely varying options, so I find it fitting that the two I ended up choosing are so different in their inspiration and their taste/style.

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First we have Trooper. A traditional English ale inspired by the song of the same name, it was created by Bruce Dickinson (the Iron Maiden vocalist), and brewed by Robinson’s. The iconic artwork was hard for me to pass up, as it brought me back to my high school days of listening to heavy metal. The website describes the beer as malt flavours and citric notes from a unique blend of Bobec, Goldings and Cascade hops dominate this deep golden ale with a subtle hint of lemon. There is a bit of malt hiding under the citrus and hops to help hold it together, but I found it a bit too lemony, with not enough malt. It was good, and probably a great example of the style, but I really wanted to like it more. I have, however, added an Iron Maiden station to my Pandora account.

Second, we have the re-release of Bitches Brew by Dogfish Head. It was first created in 2010 to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the original release of Bitches Brew, Miles Davis’ 1970 groundbreaking jazz album. A dark beer that’s a fusion of three threads of imperial stout and one thread of honey beer with gesho root. I found this to be a fabulous stout, very dark in color with a thick, rich caramel head, featuring a great blend of mild bitterness and mild roast. Flavors of dark chocolate and coffee mix in with just a touch of caramel and honey. An excellent and drinkable beer with a slight malty finish, it’s much drier than you may think given the flavors. Of the two, I have to give the Bitches Brew the hands down victory. I have also added a Bitches Brew station to Pandora!

Which station are you going to add? Which beer are you going to try?

If you’re in the area, please join me at Good Luck on Tuesday!

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Summer Sunday breakfast

Seeing as it’s been so long since my last post (most humble apologies!), I wanted to officially say, “happy summer”! I hope yours has been as busy and as fun filled as ours, so far.

I thought I’d share our thyme French toast breakfast with you, as it was delightful. Fresh figs are always a highlight for us, and this was no exception. Especially with the addition of good Italian bread, thyme egg batter, and agave nectar.

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Make your egg batter for the french toast with several egg whites, only one egg yoke, a dash of milk, a little salt and pepper, and thyme.

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Quarter the figs and throw them in a hot pan with some blue agave nectar to slightly caramelize them.

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Top with maple syrup and a little powdered sugar, and your day is off to a good start! Enjoy your Sunday!

16 reasons for Irish eyes to smile

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! My friend Kerry said Bushmills 16 Year Old Single Malt was one of his favorite Irish Whiskeys. Given that he grew up very close to the distillery, I reckon he must know what he was talking about. And he does.

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Irish eyes smile when they see Irish legs.

The whiskey is aged separately for 16 years; some in oloroso sherry casks, and some in bourbon casks. Then it is blended together and aged in port wine casks for 7 months. This last step gives it the distinctive reddish hue.  The sweet smell of honey is the first thing you’ll notice, blending with what might be roasted nuts. The fruit of the port is apparent in the initial taste, followed by the honey and a nice spice. It’s smooth and elegant with a drier spicy finish. Highly recommened by Kerry and myself.

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Wherever you go and whatever you do,
May the luck of the Irish be there with you.

Sláinte!

I want a mojito in Old San Juan!

It’s been cold. (Apparently too cold to do a post since New Years Eve…sorry!) I’m sure everyone is aware that it’s been a cold winter. The polar vortex, or whatever the heck is causing this cold spell, has been all over the news. I feel like this tree.

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I want to be warm, walking down the brilliantly sun-lit blue cobblestone streets of Old San Juan with my beautiful wife. We would start towards El Asador on Calle de San Francisco. Along the way we would see a picturesque purple balcony and a few cool cats hanging around. When we arrive, we would sit at a table with a view of the street. The awesome bartender, Daniel, would make us mojitos with Don Q Cristal. They would be super refreshing. Daniel would bring our order of ceviche. It would be excellent and flavorful. We would sit, laugh, and enjoy.

What is your warm thought of the day? Cheers!

Have a jazzy new year!

I wanted to bring y’all back down South to New Orleans for New Year’s Eve. It seems like a festive way to end the year!

Jackson Square is right in the heart of the French Quarter. A mounted Andrew Jackson rides in the center, surrounded by lush gardens, grand architecture, haunted restaurants, and lively, talented street musicians. As we walked towards the area, we could hear jazz music echoing off the buildings. A small group had gathered to perform for the passing crowds. They were very entertaining!

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After listening (and photographing) a bit, we wandered through the square on our way to dinner. It was a very relaxing area with people scattered about reading on the grass.

Muriel’s is right on a corner overlooking Jackson Square. It was featured on our ghost tour. They set a place for the resident spirit every night.

Have a safe and happy evening and a fabulous new year! Cheers!

Bánh Mi. The perfect sandwich, part 2.

Our Christmas Eve dinner was slightly out of the ordinary for our family. We decided to mix it up and serve a sandwich. But what kind of sandwich? Let’s take a stab at the perfect sandwich, I thought….the Bánh Mi. It was a hit, even with the little ones (although they may have skipped a few of the ingredients).

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From the bottom running clockwise, our sandwich consisted of: roast pork loin (marinated in white vinegar, Asian BBQ sauce, chopped ginger, soy sauce), Wegmans Asian BBQ  sauce, bacon, sliced jalapeños, cucumbers (marinated in equal parts white vinegar and sugar), Wegmans ciabatta baguette, Sriracha sauce, pork liver pâté, fresh cilantro. Don’t forget a nice spicy Gewürztraminer to go with it. I still think our house white, from Chateau Ste. Michelle, is excellent.

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This is a must try. In fact, it’s time for leftovers. Enjoy!

Happy Haunting from the Vieux Carré

All Hallows Eve will be filled with hauntings, especially in the Vieux Carré, or French Quarter. But…we will be protected with our voodoo doll for protection from evil spirits and phantoms. While we drink sazeracs (and eat candy.)

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I thought a Halloween post would be the perfect way to introduce the Sazerac, a drink that is as much a part of New Orleans as Halloween celebrations are. Its roots can be traced back to a French Quarter apothecary, Antoine Peychaud, in the early 1800s. But the drink was modified to its current recipe in the early 1900s to feature Rye instead of Cognac. It’s extremely flavorful and highly recommended.

Our voodoo doll came from Marie Laveau’s House Of Voodoo on Bourbon Street. It’s a  great little shop with many voodoo dolls, talismans, and charms.

There are many variations on the Sazerac recipe, but I chose to base mine on Vieux Carré Absinthe Supérieure, an excellent absinthe from Philadelphia Distilling. Start by chilling an old fashioned glass by filling it with ice, then gather your ingredients.

  • 2 oz. rye whiskey. I used Russel’s Reserve small batch.
  • 1/2 oz. simple syrup
  • 3 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
  • Vieux Carré Absinthe Supérieure
  • lemon

In a separate glass, over ice, mix the rye, simple syrup and bitters. Stir until chilled. Dump the ice from the old fashioned glass and give it an absinth rinse. Pour in enough to coat the entire inside of the glass, dumping if there is a lot of excess. Strain other ingredients into glass. Garnish with some lemon peel twisted over the glass. Sip to appease the spirits (and yourself). Á votre santé!

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2eat2drink-french quarter halloween

Typical French Quarter halloween decorations adorning 2 balconies. The top photo is complete with a bubble machine. The bottom photo is complete with an undead Boston Red Sox fan, which is very fitting for today. Congratulations to the World Champions!